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Suggested Citation:"Welcome." National Research Council. 2013. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18328.
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Welcome

Charles Wessner
The National Academies

Dr. Wessner welcomed the participants, offering a brief review of the National Academies. The original National Academy of Sciences, he said, was founded during the Civil War when there was an effort to draw on new science and technology emerging from the industrial revolution and to apply them to the challenges of sustaining and developing the Union. The force of conflict again played a role when the National Research Council was founded in 1916 as the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences. The growing relationships between science and other disciplines underlay the major additions of the National Academy of Engineering, in 1964, and the Institute of Medicine, in 1970. An emphasis on the increasing interdisciplinarity of the sciences, including the social sciences, continues under the current format of the National Academies.

The creation of the Board on Science, Technology and Economic Policy (STEP) in the early 1990s was an additional effort by the Academies to reach across disciplines by recognizing the central role of economic activity in formulating science policy. The mission of STEP, said Dr. Wessner, is to better integrate scientific and economic understandings of innovation and competitiveness in order to formulate more effective national policies for the federal government.

The United States has a distinguished history of scientific innovation and science-based economic power, he continued, but the connection between those two processes has frayed over the past few decades. The U.S. economy, he said, risks coming to resemble that of Great Britain during the 1950s and 1960s, when British innovators created new products and American manufacturers produced them and reaped the profits. In the same way, other nations have learned to manufacture and profit from American inventions, while American firms have been slower to take advantage. “We’re happy that other countries are progressing up the value chain,” he said, “but many of us think it’s important for the United States to have a place on that chain as well.”

Suggested Citation:"Welcome." National Research Council. 2013. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18328.
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Dr. Wessner said that the mandate of the STEP board is to address the need to connect science-based innovation with success in the marketplace. This mandate is expressed in two steps:

•  Integrating understanding of scientific, technological, and economic elements; and

•  Formulating national policies affecting the economic well-being of the United States.

One objective of today’s policies, he said, was to integrate the elements of competition and cooperation. “The world is a very competitive place,” he said, “but it’s also increasingly important to address large challenges by cooperating with other nations. The efforts to address climate change and environmental security simply cannot happen through the actions of any one nation. In the same way, even though the semiconductor industry is a global industry, it is very important that the U.S. remain a major nodule in the innovation and production system.”

In response to this new reality, the STEP board has undertaken studies attempting to identify the best ways to accelerate innovation, advance competitiveness, and improve our understanding of the nation’s economy performance and other nations’ policies and practices. “Our board is trying,” he said, “to help improve our understanding of where we are, where we’ve been, and, ideally, where we’re going.”

A GLOBAL INNOVATION IMPERATIVE

Dr. Wessner said that an emphasis of the STEP program on technology innovation and entrepreneurship is defined as “the innovation imperative.” While this imperative is not unfamiliar in the United States, it was being adopted with greater energy by other countries, which have “enormous interest” in learning about innovation policies in the United States. At home, he said, Americans tend to assume that innovation is necessary to maintain our position of leadership in the world, and yet our budgets, investments in education, and mechanisms to move applied research into the marketplace do not clearly reflect that imperative.

A second theme of the global innovation imperative, he said, was the importance of collaboration among small and large businesses and universities. This, he said, is essential if the nation is to capitalize on its considerable investments in education and research. And here lies a role for the federal government, which is positioned to facilitate collaborative activities. He said that one of the most important results of the last 15 years of analysis by the STEP board had been the demonstration that even modest investments by the federal government, especially those used to empower small businesses, can have a disproportionate impact in bringing together partners from different parts

Suggested Citation:"Welcome." National Research Council. 2013. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18328.
×

of the economy. Proven tools for making such partnerships productive, he said, were incentives that motivate faculty in the direction of collaborative research and support for public-private partnerships that support and advance new ideas toward commercialization.

STEP STUDIES ON INNOVATION

This work by the STEP board, he said, had been championed by experts on different aspects of global innovation. Gordon Moore, Chairman emeritus of Intel, had led a program-based analysis of U.S. government-industry partnerships that focused on (1) the drivers of cooperation among industry, government, and universities; (2) operational assessments of current programs; and (3) the changing role of government laboratories, universities, and other research organizations. One outcome of the study was catalyzing new science and technology parks at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in Mountain View, California, and Sandia Park, near Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The STEP board had also conducted a study of innovation in global industries, led by David Morgenthaler, of Morgenthaler Ventures, and a study of patents in the knowledge-based economy, co-chaired by Richard Levin, president of Yale University, and Mark Myers of the University of Pennsylvania.

   Ongoing STEP innovation-oriented projects included the following:

•  Comparative National Innovation Policies: Best Practice for the 21st Century, chaired by Ambassador Alan Wm. Wolff, a former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative. “While we always talk about the global economy,” said Dr. Wessner, “we actually focus mostly on ourselves and pay little attention to what is going on elsewhere.”

•  Best Practices in State and Regional Programs, chaired by Prof. Mary Good of the University of Arkansas and former Under Secretary for Technology at the Department of Commerce: “In the last decade there has been a surge of activity at the state level,” he said. “In my experience, there are governors on the left and governors on the right, but they all believe in growing their economies, creating jobs, and attracting industry. There are fewer ideologues, it seems, in state houses.”

•  Crossing the Valley of Death: An Assessment of the SBIR Program, chaired by Jacques Gansler of the University of Maryland and former Under Secretary for Technology and Acquisition at the Department of Defense. “We make huge federal investments in basic research, and we do little to help new research-based companies reach commercialization. There is precious little funding for the crucial work to be done between

Suggested Citation:"Welcome." National Research Council. 2013. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18328.
×

    the laboratory and the marketplace, and this ‘valley of death’ has in fact been widening in the last decade.”

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR NEW INDUSTRIES

Dr. Wessner turned to the day’s symposium on flexible electronics, which he said would follow themes seen in previous STEP studies. “We’re here today to look at the role of research consortia around the world. We’ll compare the structure, focus, and funding of our industry here with those elements in foreign countries, and we’ll also try to discuss what would be the appropriate policy steps the U.S. should take, if any.” There is no presumption that the government should take an active role in advancing the flexible electronics area, he emphasized, and yet the weight of history does show how effective the government can be once the value of a new industry is clear. “Industries grow most effectively when they have a supportive regulatory environment,” he said, “and they often require infusions of cash or reductions in cost. My view and the view of many is that we should simply recognize that we as a country have always supported new industries seen to have national value—in the case of the railroad, the telegraph, the radio, the nuclear power industry, and many others. Put simply, we’re quite good at picking winners. The losers usually take care of themselves.”

He expressed gratitude to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which supported the symposium, and introduced the two project chairmen. The first was Dr. Donald Siegel, the dean and professor of management at the School of Business, University at Albany, SUNY. He described Dr. Siegel as an expert on entrepreneurship and technology-based economic development, editor of the Journal of Technology Transfer, and president of the Technology Transfer Society, which focuses on the interdisciplinary and scholarly analysis of technology transfer from universities to federal laboratories.

Dr. A. Michael Andrews, the co-chair, was vice president for research and engineering and chief technology officer of L-3 Communications. He served previously as deputy assistant secretary of research and technology and chief scientist for the U.S. Army.

Suggested Citation:"Welcome." National Research Council. 2013. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18328.
×
Page 23
Suggested Citation:"Welcome." National Research Council. 2013. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18328.
×
Page 24
Suggested Citation:"Welcome." National Research Council. 2013. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18328.
×
Page 25
Suggested Citation:"Welcome." National Research Council. 2013. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18328.
×
Page 26
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Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States is the summary of a workshop convened in September 2010 by Policy and Global Affairs' Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy to review challenges, plans, and opportunities for growing a robust flexible electronics industry in the United States. Business leaders, academic experts, and senior government officials met to review the role of research consortia around the world to advance flexible electronics technology. Presenters and participants sought to understand their structure, focus, funding, and likely impact, and to determine what appropriate steps the United States might consider to develop a robust flexible electronics industry.

Flexible electronics refers to technologies that enable flexibility in the manufacturing process as well as flexibility as a characteristic of the final product. Features such as unconventional forms and ease of manufacturability provide important advantages for flexible electronics over conventional electronics built on rigid substrates. Today, examples of flexible electronics technologies are found in flexible flat-panel displays, medical image sensors, photovoltaic sheets, and electronic paper. Some industry experts predict that the market for global flexible electronics will experience a double digit growth rate, reaching $250 billion by 2025, but most experts believe that the United States is not currently poised to capitalize on this opportunity. Flexible Electronics for Security, Manufacturing, and Growth in the United States examines and compares selected innovation programs, both foreign and domestic, and their potential to advance the production of flexible electronics technology.

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